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A designer’s collapsible, biodegradable mug for India’s railway bathrooms

A designer’s collapsible, biodegradable mug for India’s railway bathrooms
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First Published: Fri, Aug 21 2009. 05 55 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Aug 21 2009. 05 55 PM IST
New Delhi: A collapsible, environmentally friendly mug meant for use in the bathrooms of Indian trains has made it to the finals of the 500,000 euro Index Award, which aims to attract entries that improve quality of life around the world.
The brainchild of a Delhi based Indian designer, Paul Sandip, the mug holds over a liter of water and disintegrates an hour after use. Sandip, who used to ride the trains a lot when he was a student noticed fellow passengers trying to find empty water bottles or coffee cups to wash themselves after using the toilets on Indian trains. “Indian railways do provide water but don’t provide anything to hold water in. Some compartments have steel mugs but these are most often stolen,” he says.
Sandip wanted to create something people could buy for an affordable price on the railway platform, store easily, and throw off the train after one time use. He began exploring concepts, and discovered a type of paper that was both strong enough to hold over a liter of water, could be glued using organic glue and would biodegrade.
Click here to watch a slideshow of Sandip’s mug.
“My greatest difficulty was how to create a stable structure and also make it biodegradable. I’ve designed it with a double snout so both left handed people and right handed people can use it. It also has an integrated handle,” he explains.
Sandip designed the mug back in 2004, while a student at National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, and was invited by the central railway authorities to test market it on trains. “They asked for one lakh pieces that we could test over one week. We were going to sell a 3 pack of mugs for Rs. 5,” he recalls. However, Sandip could not come up with the funds necessary to market the concept and now, five years later, is still attempting to find investors and advertisers who can help him get it off the ground.
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He hopes to have the mugs produced by people who live in local slums near the railway lines – thus solving the logistical problem of distribution across a country as vast as India, while also providing employment to poor families.
You can read more about the other finalists and vote on which one you think should win by going to the Index Award site.
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First Published: Fri, Aug 21 2009. 05 55 PM IST